There are innumerable moments that make up a regular season, and rarely one epitomizes the whole. From Kyle Trask’s emergence, to UF’s mismanagement against Georgia — each season comes with its share of highs and lows, and it’s seldom an even split between the two.
The lows are harped on, while the highs are expected to become routine; the latter seemed to define the overall play of UF’s defensive line this season.
Lost in the noise at the conclusion of Florida’s regular season was just how dominant the team’s defensive line was in 2019 when it came to taking the quarterback down.
The Gators recorded eight sacks against Florida State on Saturday, with Jonathan Greenard leading the way with a trio. Saturday’s performance gave the graduate transfer from Louisville nine sacks across 11 games this season — a number made more impressive when one remembers Greenard was hampered by a sprained ankle midway through the season. For his production Saturday, Greenard was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week on Monday.
The figure becomes even more impressive when considering the absence of senior defensive end Jabari Zuniga, who ultimately played just four games this season.
But Zuniga’s absence didn’t stop Florida from getting to the quarterback Saturday — something it has done to various degrees of success for much of the season, and the statistics back that up.
The eight sacks against FSU gave Florida 46 sacks on the season, the highest tally since the Gators recorded 50 sacks in 1997.
After all, contributing to a performance such as Saturday’s was what drove Greenard to Florida for his final go-round.
“Man, we’ve got some ballers,” Greenard said. “We’re together all the time. We understand what they like to do in pass rush, we understand what they like to do in the run game. All that, we understand each other and that makes it that much easier to get to the quarterback.”
It wasn’t just Greenard who found getting to the quarterback to be more of a fun challenge than a true test. Zach Carter, who started in place of Zuniga, recorded a sack to give him 4.5 on the season, while fellow defensive linemen Luke Ancrum, Mohamoud Diabate, TJ Slaton and Adam Shuler each had half of a sack. And UF linebackers James Houston IV and Ventrell Miller combined for a pair of sacks as part of an all-around effort from Florida’s pass-rush.
Of all the improvements made under coach Dan Mullen and his coaching staff, the improved ability to get to the quarterback is one of the most glaring. UF recorded just 23 sacks during the 2017 campaign prior to Mullen’s return, doubling the output from two seasons ago.
“I wasn’t here then, but overall, just looking back then, seeing the culture change. What Coach Mullen has done, what this whole staff has done, especially with us in the offseason working our tails off, it shows really what we can do,” Greenard said. “It’s Florida. The talent is always going to be there, it’s just a matter of making sure we’re all on the same page and that we’re executing and keeping our mind on the same goal.”
Now, with the standard set, Greenard will depart the Gators not only having left lasting memories — he helped set the example for UF’s “next men up” on the defensive line, too.
“The injury bug just hit us at the wrong time. If the injury bug never bit us, I mean, we can’t call it, but everybody knows where we would have been,” Greenard said. “Just control the controllables. I’m just thankful that we got this situation to make this mark — a 10-win season and going to a really good bowl game, a New Year’s Six bowl game. It’s going to be really good for the young guys. We set the pace and now you guys got to go off and run. I think they understand that. They’re going to pride themselves on doing a really good job in the offseason.”